Gull-Wing Beater: 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

For all of the pristine DeLorean DMC-12s that roll across auction blocks nationwide, there has to be the occasional beater. The seller emphasizes several times that this DeLorean on eBay will need some level of refurbishment, referring to it as a “fixer-upper” more than once. To me, rough cosmetics mean nothing compared to the travesty of an automatic transmission, which this example is equipped with. Which begs the question: will this example, with its known issues and slushbox, ever make a good investment? Find it here on eBay with bidding over $16K and no reserve.

The DMC-12 is well known for its real-world performance falling well short of expectations, especially given its Jetsons-grade exterior. The powerplant was less than inspiring and has never endeared itself to enthusiasts, even among the company’s most fervent supporters. While I can understand that in the era in which it was made, plenty of shoppers didn’t think twice about ordering it with an automatic, today we all know how much the performance suffered as a result. In addition, any car even considered a performance vehicle in some regard (and what else would you consider a DeLorean?) demands that it come with the row-it-yourself option if future value is a concern. Of course, when the first owner bought this car, he likely wasn’t too concerned with future resale value.

The seller says it runs, drives, and stops as it should, but doesn’t elaborate as to why it’s still a “fixer upper.” The engine bay looks cleaner than I was expecting given the description, but no information is offered about how it’s been maintained. One of the more annoying things sellers  can do is blatantly call their car a beater, or a project, or a fixer upper, and then not explain why it earned that title. It’s almost like by simply calling it a project, they’re suddenly absolved of disclosing specific issues with the car. If you call a house a fixer-upper but know full-well that the foundation is crumbling, I suppose you can say with some confidence that you did identify it as a project – but wouldn’t it be nice if you knew in advance just how deep you were getting? Regardless, as bidding shows, it’s not stopping anyone.

And that’s the funny thing about DeLoreans. Despite being really just a stainless steel novelty, collectors still dig them. Therefore, even an example with undisclosed issues and the fun-sapping automatic will likely still nudge $18K or better before it sells. For years, I’ve expected the DeLorean to be a collector car that falls by the wayside, especially given its relevance preceded Gen Xers and came after Baby Boomers’ formative car years. Despite this, the DMC-12 continues to hold appeal to a devout contingent of brand loyalists, as this example shows. I still can’t quite rationalize spending this much money to get into a project-grade specimen, but given the iconic gullwing doors still work, I’m sure this photo alone made some bidders open up their checkbooks.

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Comments

  1. Mark_K Member

    The guy who did the LS swap in the green Nova needs to get a hold of this for his next LS swap.

    6
  2. ccrvtt

    It’s been done. There’s a Corvette restoration shop in Southern Indiana that had a client who wanted an LS swapped into his. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. Took a huge shoehorn to get it in.

    6
    • SMDA

      No, how about Tesla high output electric motor swap? LS, that is so yesterday. Wake up, the future is here!

      7
  3. Classic Steel

    Happy VD days all. Get your shots ❤️😆

    I say get one in better shape or get the flux compassitor and go back in time and kick the bad owners @ss for dis-respect of a national treasure 👀🤔😎

    4
  4. Skorzeny

    Jeff, I think this is my favorite write up of yours. You really don’t hide your disdain for the hated automatic transmission… I got to drive one of these once, and it was fun. I got a LOT of attention. I hope that the next owner will do something neat with it. It is a timeless design, I never tire of looking at them.

    3
  5. Dave

    If it runs and drives OK, then if you really want it go ahead and buy it. Who cares about what’s under the bonnet? At least you won’t get out of shape when a shopping cart rolls into it.

    2
    • Ralph

      Its stainless steel though not plastic.

      1
  6. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    A 16K beater? No thanks.

    2
  7. Jakub

    As a Delorean owner myself, there are plenty of underside pictures but none covers the most common rust spot – front crossmember.

    1
  8. 433jeff

    Well isnt JD the creator of the gto? To bad we didnt have 99000 stainless 68 GTOs out there. To come this far and have a slug motor? Uh , oh well 💩 happens i guess. Car of the year

    1
  9. Bob McK Member

    Looks like there are a lot of flaws in the SS body. I don’t think you can repair it to look like new again without painting it. Not sure who would want a painted one. But if you are ok with a beater this one is for you.

  10. Doug Emde

    This is an early production model as seen from gas filler door on hood. Could be a fun experiment to make it an electric car (some shops are doing that). Owned two and they were underpowered, yes, but still fun with manual shifter, and who can drive fast in the city anyway?
    Does anyone know the VIN on this one?

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